Our New Teen Space

Our New Teen Space

In the past month, I have had a couple of people comment to me about how we rearranged the library. Each person was complimentary, but they also questioned some of our decisions. Why was the new teen area so roomy? Why didn't we get new furniture for the adults?

We never really had a teen space in the library. At the beginning of each school year, kids would wander over from the middle school to try hanging out at the library until their folks could pick them up. And each year there was nowhere for them to hang out. 

As I looked through old photos, I saw that back in 2000 we carved out a teen space from the adult side of the library. It included a table and two chairs behind the two teen computers, as well as half an aisle of books. That area was popular, but only really had room for four teens. Any overflow blocked the archway, which was a hazard for people trying to browse.

In 2019 I took a photo of nine middle schoolers hanging out by our book drop area. They didn't fit in the teen area, but they wanted to socialize at the library, so they found a spot. Unfortunately we couldn't monitor them down there and it was a hazard for people trying to exit the library. With nowhere to go, they quit coming in. Those kids are now well into high school.

Part of the library's mission reads, "We aspire to offer a welcoming atmosphere in which people can explore ideas and foster a lifelong love of learning." The first line of our vision is this: "The Gering Library is a vibrant hub of community engagement, where people of all backgrounds and ages come together to learn, create, and connect." 

A library needs to provide space for everybody. If we want people to come to the library we need to make space for them. Our adult patrons are important, but young people are important too. Kids are the future of the library. Not only do they gain a lot from our programs, they have found the library is a great place to socialize, as many of our adult patrons have discovered.

Our corner space with chairs and a love seat is popular for adults who just want to relax and enjoy the company of their friends. If the adults showed up and found nine teens in that area, they would complain that they wanted to use their space back. 

The furniture in the adult area is starting to show some wear. The Gering Library Foundation is currently in the process of raising some money to purchase new furniture for the adult corner. If you would like to contribute money to new adult furniture, please reach out to our director, Christie Clarke. I will write about some new additions to the adult space in a later column.

The children's area is not a good place for teens either. They are too old for childish toys, although they will sometimes do goofy things with the toys. I have a video of 11 high school-aged boys in the log cabin. It looks like clowns exiting a Volkswagen. When teens hang out in the children's area it can make the little ones uncomfortable. Teens are too old for the children's area, and too young for the adult area. They need their own space.

To make our teen space we moved the children's area into a great space downstairs where little ones can be active and noisy. We filled this area with toys and fun things for children to explore. Now parents don't have to worry about the noise level as their children fully enjoy the children's section.

McDonald's of Gering donated money to purchase fun and functional furniture for the teen area. We combined the tween and teen books to make it easy to find something age-appropriate to read. We also left a lot of open space because we want kids to have room to spread out. Teens were missing their own space in the library. Now that they have their own area, it's a matter of them discovering it. When they discover it, the space needs to be available and usable.